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Thursday, June 20, 2013

Mia Hamm, Say Hello To Abby Wambach-The New Leading Scorer In Women's International Soccer History

I can't say I was glued to the U.S. women's exhibition match tonight vs. mighty Korea Republic at Red Bull Arena but I have to mention the major history that went down there. U.S. striker Abby Wambach scored four goals to become the all-time leading scorer in women's international soccer history with 160 goals. Former U.S. women's icon Mia Hamm was the previous record holder with 158 goals.

I would normally make fun of this happening on their home soil against such an overmatched opponent in a completely irrelevant game but Wambach deserves way more respect than that. She's been an incredibly consistent and durable player for the U.S. that still shows no signs of slowing down. The U.S. are the best women's team because they have numerous outstanding players but we have to remember how long Wambach has been doing this for. It's nice to see her rewarded with such an impressive personal milestone.

It's only fitting that she set the record on a header (her 69th goal in that fashion). Congrats Abby!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

U.S. Men Complete 3 For 3 Run, Jozy Altidore Scores In 4th Straight Match

It lacked the excitement of their improbable 2-1 win at Jamaica from a few weeks ago or the incredible crowd in Seattle for the 2-0 win over Panama last week but tonight at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah, the U.S. men's national team got three more vital points thanks to a 1-0 win over Honduras. This put them in real good shape to come in first place in the hexagonal to reach the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

Jozy Altidore had the goal on a one-timer in the 71st minute after a cross by Fabian Johnson and Tim Howard earned the clean sheet despite a very quiet night in the goal. Altidore now has scored in four straight matches, tying a U.S. record held by five other guys: William Looby, Eric Wynalda, Brian McBride, Eddie Johnson and Landon Donovan (twice).

The Americans have won their last four matches including three World Cup qualifiers in a row. The U.S. leads the hexagonal standings after six matches with 13 points, Costa Rica (11), Mexico (8), Honduras (7), Panama (6) and Jamaica (2) round out the rest of the group.

This was the perfect way to begin the summer since the top players can get some rest before younger guys or washed up former stars (Donovan) start training in July for the Gold Cup. The U.S. opens up with Guatemala on July 5 in San Diego; they meet Belize on July 9 in Portland, Oregon; they are back in Sandy, Utah on July 13 to play Belize and finally they take on Costa Rica July 16 in Hartford, CT.

They have four more hexagonal matches left: two in September, at Costa Rica (Sept. 6) and hosting Mexico (Sept. 10) in Columbus, Ohio. Things will be sorted out in October as the U.S. hosts Jamaica (Oct. 11) in Kansas City then travels to Panama (Oct. 15).

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

U.S. Men Beat Panama 2-0 To Grab First Place In Hexagonal Standings

As far as I'm concerned, beating Panama (a country of 3.5 million people that has never made the World Cup) is hardly notable except for the fact that the U.S. men's national team handed them a 2-0 defeat tonight in a World Cup qualifier at CenturyLink Field in Seattle.

Coming off Friday's improbable 2-1 win at Jamaica in stoppage time, the U.S. had confidence and it showed since they dominated Panama for most of the match. They were rewarded with three points and first place in the hexagonal standings halfway through the final round of qualifying for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

Tim Howard only had to make two saves, one difficult shot in stoppage time, for his 26th career clean sheet. Both American goals were top notch as Jozy Altidore scored for the third straight game (something he's never done for the national team) in the 36th minute and Seattle Sounder Eddie Johnson thrilled his awesome home fans with a goal in the 53rd minute.

Old man DeMarcus Beasley was busy, he hit the post in the 60th minute after a remarkable run that was straight out of 2002. Unfortunately, he picked up a yellow card in stoppage time (he was already carrying one) so he'll miss the next U.S. match.

Many trusted American soccer writers felt that Michael Bradley was the man of the match and it was hard to argue after he controlled the midfield, made wonderful passes and won every 50/50 ball. Bradley started the sequence on Altidore's goal as he sent it down the wing to Fabian Johnson who one-touch crossed it across Panama's goalmouth. Altidore finished it perfectly.

Johnson's goal was assisted by Geoff Cameron, who also had an excellent performance and found Johnson with a long aerial pass. Johnson did the rest with a cool shot around Panama goalkeeper Jaime Penedo.

The U.S. (3-1-1) will go for its third World Cup qualifying win in a row next Tuesday (9 p.m., ESPN) in Sandy, Utah at Rio Tinto Stadium against Honduras (2-2-1).

UPDATE 6/15: Midfielder Kyle Beckerman was added to the U.S. roster for the match vs. Honduras.